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"What If The Communists Had Won The Spanish Civil War?" Topic

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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 3:24 a.m. PST

Imagine a different outcome to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) …

A) What would the Cold War period had been like in that scenario, if Franco had lost to the Marxist coalition (aka the Republicans)?

B) Would Spain have been part of Stalin's Warsaw Pact nations?

C) Would there have been a conventional WW3? If so, how soon after WW2?

D) How would one go about playing this scenario?

E) How would that deviation in the timeline have changed the map of Spain? Would Spain have become a coalition of smaller independent nations, or would Stalin have kept it all as a single country?

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gunnerphil10 Dec 2017 4:04 a.m. PST

Not sure why there would not have been a NATO if Spain was Warsaw Pact or Neutral. Spain did not join NATO till long after it's formation.

Biggest changes would have been less Brits, Germans, and Dutch on the Costa's.

I guess as cold war went on Gibraltar would have had a larger garrison.

Would a Socialist Spain join Warsaw pact at a guess would have tried to remain a non aligned country. At best or worst a 2nd tier country more like Yugoslavia than East Germany.

That is all supposing that Marxist government was a dictatorship.

Giving the limited support the left had before the civil war is a good chance that a right or center party would come to power in any post war election

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 4:06 a.m. PST


How about the map of Spain? Separate independent nations or a single unified country?


gunnerphil10 Dec 2017 4:17 a.m. PST

I think both side wanted to keep country whole. Franco made some promises to the Basques about freedom, and promptly went back in them.

So if Spain was a Communist dictatorship might have been US sponsored "freedom fighters" as a spoiling action.

Would they have won? I doubt it.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 4:37 a.m. PST


Would Hitler have been more careful of overextending into France? Or would he have moved into France much sooner and then attempted to invade Spain during their reconstruction period, soon after 1939?

What do you think the uniforms of that Spain would have looked like after 1939? What figures would you recommend for their military at that point?


Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 5:00 a.m. PST

Would Hitler(through Italy) have invaded Spain before France? That would allow them to block the Straits and when they attacked France it would be on two fronts.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 5:01 a.m. PST

Hmm. As always, the immediate aftermath is more predictable, and over time, more options open. Depends a little on WHEN the Reds won, too.
If the initial coup had fizzled, figure the pre-Civil War bloodletting would have continued and intensified.Spain goes more or less authoritarian leftist--but maybe gets invaded by Hitler in Spring 1941.
If the war goes on into 1938/39, think of Spain as the first of the Warsaw Pact states--purges, massacres and whatnot. Hitler might invade, but more probably it sits out WWII--or comes in on the Allied side after D-Day--and lasts until the end of European Communism--at which point Catalonia and the Basque provinces might make a successful bid for independence.
But a lot depends on local personalities and dumb luck.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 5:21 a.m. PST


Any speculation on the weapons and style of uniforms* their military might have adopted after 1939?

Robert: "If the war goes on into 1938/39, think of Spain as the first of the Warsaw Pact states--purges, massacres and whatnot"

True. Maybe even more blood spilled after the war than during. And lots of people shipped off to gulags.

StoneMtnMinis, that would be some scary scenario, with Gibraltar firmly under his control.

* Once they'd had a chance to standardize, of course. These helmets here look a bit like M-40s, don't they:


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 5:53 a.m. PST

Forgot uniforms. Again, it's a matter of when and how the Reds win.
If the SCW had been over before it properly began, buy Nationalists for a 1939-40 Spanish Army. At their most formal, the Nationalists continued to wear the pre-SCW uniform, and absent a civil war, there would have been no reason to change.
If the Reds win something which is recognizably the SCW we know, buy SCW Reds. The country would have been broke and exhausted, and had no reason to re-uniform the victorious army. Helmets might have been interesting, since the Reds don't seem to have standardized. You could either use a mix, or use them to distinguish troop types. Regulars get local production. Reserves or newly-mobilized units get Adrians or suchlike, presumably brought out of store.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 5:53 a.m. PST

A scary scenario, but unlikely given that it would have had to be an operation undertaken entirely by sea over what was then a considerable distance. Even crossing 20-odd miles of the Channel was a challenge. Whilst Norway in 1940 showed what was possible for the Germans at the time it was against a disparate defence and took most of the major operational assets of the Kriegsmarine to accomplish. One might spot a force like that passing the UK and through the Straits

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 6:09 a.m. PST

Robert: "If the Reds win something which is recognizably the SCW we know"

Yes. For the sake of this discussion, let's assume it lasts the full period, 1936-1939, and that the timeline only changes towards the end, when the tide suddenly turns against Franco.

He either suffers a series of major setbacks in 1939, or he is assassinated or is cornered and he suddenly flees (to Italy?). Either way, his support in Spain collapses in 1939 and the Reds claim victory.

PS. I had never seen this 1937 poster(?) before:


Gwydion10 Dec 2017 6:23 a.m. PST

Why are we conflating 'Republicans' with 'Reds'?

The Republicans were the legitimate government, supported by all sorts of democratic groups from the centre right leftward.

If the Republicans had won they would have tried to restore the democratic government elected prior to the fascist rebellion.

There may have then been another civil war between the Stalinist backed communist wing of the coalition against fascism, but that is a far cry from this odd zero sum binary depiction of Reds V Fascists.

The Republicans were the legitimate democratic government.

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 6:32 a.m. PST

Has there ever be a case where communists have given power back to the people and allowed a free election to take place?

Monophagos10 Dec 2017 6:57 a.m. PST

The point is that not everyone who fought against Franco was Communist. Part of the reason that the Republicans lost was that they were so diverse in their political beliefs and agendas.

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian10 Dec 2017 8:05 a.m. PST

Part of the reason that the Republicans lost was that they were so diverse in their political beliefs and agendas.

And had a tendency to shoot each other

Eumerin10 Dec 2017 8:16 a.m. PST

And had a tendency to shoot each other


Safe to say that another civil war breaking out between the "victors" is a likely possibility?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 8:18 a.m. PST

I suspect the result may have been similar to Yugoslavia. A nation rent and torn apart by war and civil war, that only wanted to recover.
It was well into the 50s before Spain was anywhere close to recovery.
Spain was so vital to the intervening powers because there was nothing else going on in Europe at the time.
After 1939, Germany, Italy and Russia were kind of busy elsewhere. Their only reasons for intervention were cynical self interest. Now each had other things to worry about.

The end result would probably have been the same general European war, with a devastated Spain staying out of it. Much like Franco did.

As for the effect on the Cold War, just look at how useful Yugoslavia was to the Russians.
And if another Civil War broke out, neither the West nor Russia were in any rush to start fighting again. They didn't go to war over Berlin; why over Spain?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 8:30 a.m. PST

Well, I'm conflating "Republicans" with "Reds" because the longer the war went on, the more true it was. Which is why I say an abortive war might not have changed much, but a full-length war would have been either a Communist victory or a Francoist one.

That may be being charitable, considering the situation in 1936. Gwydion, I'd concede your point if you'd written "center-left leftward" but even at that, non-leftist politicians were being taken out and shot on a fairly regular basis prior to the start of the Civil War, and no one in the government seemed overly concerned.

But by late in the SCW the high road to power on the "Republican" side, including high rank in the Army, was to join the Communist Party, the KGB was operating openly and leaving bodies openly in dumps. At least in Moscow they buried them. And, as pointed out above, the "Republican" armed forces have the blessings of political commissars with Communist insignia.

It is, if you will, one of the tragedies of the SCW. If the opposition--a truly diverse bunch!--had sat tight, and not responded to the assassinations, would the popular front ever have restored order, held an honest election, lost and given up power peacefully? We don't know. But the longer the war went on, the less likely it was to result in a democratic Spain no matter who won.

And now, could we please get back to wargaming? Debates about the legitimacy of Spanish governments generate no scenarios and paint no castings.

gunnerphil10 Dec 2017 9:10 a.m. PST

Cacique Caribs.

Would Hitler worry about over extending? No evidence that he believed it was possible to over extend.

Depending who came out on top of the Republicans, Spain most likely not have got involved. Even if communist had taken over Spain was worn out.

But for gaming could have a small boat run aground and crew trying to make it to safety, or paras attempting to rescue Rommel's after his plane crashes.

Use any SCW figures, except Moors or Foreign Legion

RudyNelson10 Dec 2017 9:12 a.m. PST

Germany and Vichy France would have invaded Spain. It would not have made it to 1946.

Legion 410 Dec 2017 9:31 a.m. PST

They did have some nice posters though …

Regardless … I'm not sure if Spain would be better(?) off than it is today. However I don't live in Spain so I'm just guessing basically. But I generally think that communist leadership, regimes, etc. is not really a very good thing, IMO of course …

cosmicbank10 Dec 2017 10:44 a.m. PST

"Forgot uniforms" My God Man whats next…. No Scale….. Dice out the window…..

NickNorthStar Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 11:12 a.m. PST

The over-riding answer has to be, forget about it. The Republic was doomed, it was never going to win.

I think it's only chance was early on if the French had not wimped out to British pressure and supported the Republic like it said it would, then exposed the German and Italian Fascists for the lying scumbags they were and embarrassed the British into helping. With British and French support, and one presumes North America would follow, the Republic could have survived, and would have never had to drink from the Soviet's poisoned chalice. A Western backed victory 'may' have held up Fascist war ambitions, perhaps Hitler wouldn't have been so sure about invading Poland?

But what horror would have been unleashed on the World if Nazi Germany had gone on for decades more?

Legbiter10 Dec 2017 11:35 a.m. PST

They would still be fighting. As other commenters have noted, why Franco's side won was that folk could see that if they did, the fighting would end, and equally, that if the Government won, it wouldn't. Completely fairly, folk have pointed out above that not all those on the Government side were Communists, and for balance, I think it necessary to add that not all those on Franco's side were Fascists/Nazis.

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 12:18 p.m. PST

Monophagos +3

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 12:21 p.m. PST

It would appear then, that it was a good thing the Fascists won.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 12:41 p.m. PST

That hurts Cosmic Bank. Let me amplify and say "forgot to mention uniforms." Actually, I did a bunch of SCW figures but eventually got rid of them. However interesting the whole thing might be as a narrative, it wasn't very interesting tactically. WWII in the Middle East and North Africa won out as the "modern" forces.

14Bore10 Dec 2017 1:47 p.m. PST

Franco kept out though Hitler tried, of the 2nd WW, the Communists definitely would have jumped in.

KSmyth10 Dec 2017 2:16 p.m. PST

Why does this seem like such a simple-minded question?

Surely there is a Spanish member of TMP who can educate all of us. The Republicans were the elected government of Spain, and represented a large coalition of political ideologies from anarchism to communism with a lot of republican-styled democrats in the middle.

Yes the communists do end up with a bigger say in the government in the end, chiefly because the Soviet Union was supplying the arms, which the western democracies and United States refused to do. You don't play the game, you don't make the rules.

It's a fascinating, but bloody conflict and nobody emerges with clean hands. But it certainly is complex enough not be if this then that.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 2:18 p.m. PST

Franco kept out though Hitler tried, of the 2nd WW, the Communists definitely would have jumped in.

If the Communists would have definitely jumped in, against whom, and where?

cosmicbank10 Dec 2017 2:37 p.m. PST

Robert no Harm meet.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 3:17 p.m. PST

Cosmic, no offense taken.

14bore, I'd disagree. Whoever won in 1939. Spain would have been broke and exhausted, and a Red government would have had no allies close by. I could see them sending a contingent to France once the Western allies broke out of Normandy--not militarily significant, but colorful and a show of good faith.

But I could see Mussolini, perhaps accompanied by exiled Falangists, invading Spain in 1940-41 instead of Greece or Egypt, and then getting bailed out by the "Second Condor Legion" or the "Deutsche Spanien Korps." Sadly, very soon in such a campaign you'd have to invent uniforms, organizations and tank camouflage.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 3:23 p.m. PST

Hmph. Side issue. Does anyone know what happened to the various tanks sent to Spain during the SCW? Did the Germans or Italians take any of theirs back when the war was over? Did the Nationalists keep the Soviet equipment in service? I would assume so, but I don't really know.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 3:38 p.m. PST

And I answer my own question. The Soviets provided about 900 tanks to the Reds, of which the Nationalists kept about 250 in service for the post-SCW army.

So any hypothetical involving the Reds winning would involve probably at least that many Soviet tanks being available in event of an Italian or German invasion--possibly supplemented for comic relief with Pzkw I's and L3/33 tankettes.

No. I am NOT building a Spanish Republican army with Soviet tanks to fight my 15mm WWII Italians. But it does sound cute.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 5:08 p.m. PST

As others have said, the legitimate government was not Reds, but an assortment of left leaning democratic groups. Really,unless international feelings changed, there was really no way the republicans could have won the war.

Lion in the Stars10 Dec 2017 7:36 p.m. PST

Given how much the National Socialists liked the Communists, I'd bet that a Communist win in Spain would have seen Spain invaded by Germany shortly after France fell.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 7:37 p.m. PST

Robert: "No. I am NOT building a Spanish Republican army with Soviet tanks to fight my 15mm WWII Italians. But it does sound cute."

That would make for an awesome sight. :)

By then I think a lot more Soviet tanks would have "volunteered" to go to Spain.


Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 8:38 p.m. PST

Given how much the National Socialists liked the Communists, I'd bet that a Communist win in Spain would have seen Spain invaded by Germany shortly after France fell.

No. Being a profound student of History, Hitler was determined not to repeat the same mistake as Napoleon did by invading Spain.
Oh. Wait a minute. I see a slight flaw in that argument…..

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2017 11:13 p.m. PST

Ha! Russia! Took me a while, but I just now got it.

Then again I'm on meds. And sleepy. Nite nite.


basileus66 Inactive Member10 Dec 2017 11:17 p.m. PST

Too many variables. My guess is that a Republican victory would have make probable that Spain would have been involved in WWII, willy-nilly. Germany, possibly, would have formed in Spain a short of "Vichy" government, using the Rightists elements that would have survived the coup/war. In that case, I believe that Hitler would have had a strong motivation to follow his less-preferred strategy, i.e. to amp the intensity of operations against Britain instead turning against the USSR. He would have done it, in the end, but not until 1942 at the earliest. Possibily, Italy would have tried to capture the Balearic Islands, while Britain would have done the same with the Canary Islands, maybe installing a government in exile there.

The only reason that Spain sit out the war, I think, was that Hitler didn't perceive Franco' Spain as a threat for his Southern flank/rear -nor as an opportunity for Britain. A Republican Spain, on the other hand, would have been fair game. He couldn't have been able to ignore her as a potential springboard for the British. Particularly, if as some speculate, the victorious Republicans had had a strong Communist presence in the government. I doubt that Mussolini would have resisted the temptation of intervening, either. Mind that Spain would have had her army and her means of production in tatters. She would have been fair game for German and Italian forces.

All of it is pure speculation, though. My guess is as good as any.

basileus66 Inactive Member10 Dec 2017 11:24 p.m. PST

Of course, if Communists (as the title of the thread asks specifically) would have won the war -i.e. not just the Republican government, but a Republican government controlled by the Communist Party (I guess the orthodox, Stalinist, PCE, not the Troskyst POUM)-, then I have not doubt that Hitler would have ordered his troops to occupy Spain. Particulary, as he planned to attack the USSR on a later date. He couldn't allow himself to leave that potential threat unatended.

Dn Jackson11 Dec 2017 1:03 a.m. PST

"Has there ever be a case where communists have given power back to the people and allowed a free election to take place?"

Going from memory here…but in post WWII Austria the Soviets agreed to fair and free elections. Austria was occupied jointly by western and Soviet troops. The Soviets were surprised when they lost, badly, and had to give up control. It was the last free election any communist government had that I know of.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2017 2:08 a.m. PST

Dn Jackson

Lol. That's why I always chuckle every time I see this 1937 AUS (Amigos de la Unión Soviética – Friends of the USSR) poster:

"The USSR Shows/Points Democracies The Way To Peace!"

The more I ask my uncles, the more I feel like the multiparty Republic that existed in ‘36 was already being "streamlined" in ‘37 by the Marxist components within it. A victorious 1939 Republic would have been a Marxist one. I no longer have any doubts about it. The POUM, PCE and the other Marxists would have made sure of that.

And as a Marxist Republic, if threatened by Hitler after 1939, they would have only one logical strong benefactor to look to for support, and he was in Moscow.

TMP link


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2017 7:40 a.m. PST

Dn Jackson, your memory is quite right--as far as it goes. The Soviet chunk of Austria was judged not big enough to a satellite state, so Stalin traded it for permanent Austrian neutrality. Austrian Communists did indeed lose power. The catch is that they weren't the ones to agree to free and fair elections. The deal was done with Moscow, and no one in Moscow was going to lose power in an Austrian election.

But is there a wargame in any of this?

Murvihill11 Dec 2017 12:00 p.m. PST

I think Hitler and Mussolini would consider it a point of honor to wipe out the evil Communists in Spain, negating the propoganda fail that the Nationalists losing in Spain would have caused them. Either the North African campaign or the Russian campaign would be pushed back a bit while the Italians and Germans invaded.

Lion in the Stars11 Dec 2017 3:00 p.m. PST

I'm pretty sure the Russian campaign would have been delayed, but the North African campaign had been going since about 1935 for the Italians.

So at best the North African campaign would have slowed down.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2017 3:50 p.m. PST

Hmm. I notice several comments on this thread to the effect that (a) the "Republicans" were liberal democrats and (b) the established western democracies failed to sell them arms or treat them differently than the Nationalists. Just for completeness, I notice no one mentioned the massacres. By the lowest computation, at the start of the SCW the government of parties loyal to it killed better than 50,000 people for being the sort of people the left didn't like--clerics, businessmen, landowners, military officers--that sort of thing. At the time, estimates ran much higher. Note that at that time, Stalin had provided no aid, and the influence of the Spanish Communist Party was no more than could be derived from the popularity of its program.

So two questions:

Is this what those of you who insist that the Spanish left was composed of liberal democrats think is how liberal democrats behave?

Do you think they might have had an easier time buying supplies from France and the UK if they hadn't, in effect, said "well, we've just shot 5,000 priests and nuns, but we're low on ammunition. Can you sell us some more?"

We might also note that with the exceptions of Azana and Negrin, no prominent "Republican" fled Spain for anything but single-party states, whether in Moxcow or Mexico City.

OR we could stop posting things telling me what wonderful people the Reds were, and focus on wargaming potential.

What happens in France occupies Catalonia in 1938? Evidently is was a possibility. What do Catalan sepratists or anarchists make of it?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2017 4:04 p.m. PST

Robert: "What happens in France occupies Catalonia in 1938? "

That would give the Vichy an excuse later on, to occupy that same territory.


basileus66 Inactive Member11 Dec 2017 5:13 p.m. PST

Just for completeness, I notice no one mentioned the massacres.

I didn't, but because I didn't believe that it was germane to the discussion. I thought the idea was speculate about potential scenarios with a Communist Republic winning the Civil War.

What you must understand is that after the first few days in July, Republican governments stopped being functional for a long time. Power was left in the hands of political parties, syndicates and Anarchists. They created their own militias, which, as usual in these cases, were better at killing undefended "enemies" than at fighting the opposing forces. The Republican government tried, and failed, to control them. During the war, the Republican government wasn't able to impose a centralized strategy. Each party had its own idea about how the war should be fought. And what was more important: they had the means to follow independent policies, through their militias. In theory, the creation of the Republican Popular Army should have paliated that situation. It didn't work as supposed. Socialists and Communists continued to exercise immense power, through the figure of the political commissars. Communists had also the benefit of being associated with the USSR, which gave them a leverage that their military capacity didn't justify. But Stalin was very prudent and reined the revolutionary instincts of the Spanish Communists. Actually, he was more insistent in the PCE destroying Troskysts heretics in the Republican rearguard, particularly the POUM (though the POUM had broken with Trostky, that didn't worry Stalin) than in a Communist take-over.

Note that at that time, Stalin had provided no aid, and the influence of the Spanish Communist Party was no more than could be derived from the popularity of its program.

You are correct. Actually, in many massacres the Communists played a secondary role. In Madrid, it was the alliance between the left of the PSOE and the left of the PCE who carried the most infamous massacres, but it wasn't sanctioned by the Republican government -they did ex post facto, to avoid a break down of the resistance and as a recognition of its impotence-. In Catalonia, Aragón and Valencia it was the Anarchists, who did as they pleased, even to the point of ignoring orders to go to the front to stop a rebel assault in order to continue with the killings and thefts of Church's properties. Anarchists were, possibly, the most brutal militia that operated in Republican Spain in the early months. They were convinced that the success of the revolution would be only possible if they killed as many priests as they could in the shortest time possible. Paradoxically, the Communists were somewhat less bloodthirsty. At least, not in the sense of behaving with the savage abandon of Anarchists. They were more "professional" in their massacres.

Mind that I am not comparing them with their opponents. It is not the topic. Enough to say that during the war, two intolerant political projects were fighting each other. For both of them, victory couldn't happen just in the battlefield. It should happen in the hearts and minds of Spaniards. And both believed that the only way to preach the Good News was through the blood of their enemies. Brutality didn't happen by spontaneous outbursts of anger -at least, not in the case of massive massacres; individual killings were another thing-; violence was deliberately used to destroy the opponent, in soul and body.

goragrad11 Dec 2017 6:11 p.m. PST

Considering that a significant portion of the support for the Nazis was their anti-Communist stance, a Communist government in Spain would have required Hitler to invade.

Rather hard to claim the war against the Soviets was a crusade against Communism if Spain is ignored. Particularly when as noted the military in Slain would have been still in disarray.

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